A million shoppers swap UK for NYC

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The Independent Online
BRITISH CHRISTMAS shoppers are flocking to New York, lured by cut-price goods, a strong pound, a drop in crime and the festive glitz of one of the world's most exhilarating cities.

The number of air travellers crossing the Atlantic to New York for the pre-Christmas rush has reached a record this season, with an estimated one million visitors making the 7,000-mile round trip from British airports.

The number is well up on last year's total of 750,000, which in turn was an increase of 30 per cent on 1996, according to the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

British visitors are doing all the usual tourist stuff, skating on the ice rink in Central Park, taking the lift to the top of the Empire State Building and jostling with office workers inBroadway delicatessens, but the main draw is the shops.

With some popular Christmas gifts selling for about half their UK prices and with return flights as low as pounds 160 (before airport taxes), some visitors may be able to offset their travel costs by the savings they make on goods they would otherwise have bought in Britain.

The New York CVB says most visitors are making four-day trips using scheduled flights and staying in low to mid-range hotels for between pounds 35 and pounds 75 per person per night. The savings continue with transportation. A substantial cab ride from Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan to the Guggenheim Museum halfway up Park Avenue will set them back about pounds 8. One Subway journey anywhere in the city is 90p. A similar cab ride across London could cost between pounds 15 and pounds 20 and an Underground ticket pounds 2.

Pairs of Levi jeans are as cheap as pounds 9 at the Canal Jeans Company on Broadway, compared to between pounds 40 and pounds 50 in Britain.

Even with the 8.25 per cent sales tax (not marked on price tags in stores) prices in the Big Apple York are still bargains.

Where once visitors from the UK might have been put off a Christmas shopping trip to New York by the notoriously high crime rate, now they are filing fearlessly through the arrivals gates at JFK airport.

Thanks to a campaign of zero tolerance on crime and a much healthier national economy, the city that once boasted one of the world's worst crime rates has cleaned up its act. Crime is reported to be 7 per cent down on the figure for last year and 14 per cent lower than in 1996.

However, the transatlantic Christmas bonanza will not last as, after Tuesday, flights rise steeply to pounds 500 or more.

Big Savings In The Big Apple

UK (pounds ) US ($)

Talking Teletubby 29.99 24.99 (pounds 15.50)

Moet and Chandon 19.99 13.99 (pounds 8.70)


Sony Playstation 130.00 129.99 (pounds 80)

Pair of Levi's jeans 44.99 15.00 (pounds 9)

U2's latest CD 14.99 19.99 (pounds 12)